Cartographies of Time

Tondo_Twelve_BLKLyrical and linear ways to represent time and its passage have been an abiding theme in my art practice. From the life story lines in “Cascade” to the mandala mapping of concentric time in my “Tondos” I have used commonplace materials to create ephemeral artworks that stand as a testimony to the transitory. Time itself as “in time” and “over time” is an integral part of my material process.

When a good friend died of breast cancer I wanted to create an artwork that would serve as a memorial to her extraordinary life. For one year, slowly and carefully, from my local newspaper I cut obituaries into thin strips and attached them to scotch tape. As the narrative line, the personal story of each individual joined with others, the power of the steam of life was felt as a waterfall, as a “Cascade” of lamentation and of celebration.

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In “Forest Knolls, CA 94933” eight stumps from the some 62 million tress felled annually for the production of junk mail were made from my gleanings from the paper recycle bins during a typical day at the Forest Knolls, CA post office, 94933. Election campaign flyers were combined with glossy catalogs for lifestyle fashions, cards explaining Internet services, reports about lucrative investments, and travel brochures to exotic destinations.

94933_stumps_IMG_0508In a tree, the rings are a record of the fluctuations of the weather and other environmental influences. The junk mail rings will tell future generations about our desires and what we considered to be important.  What will they read in and in-between the lines?

94933_IMG_0136The landmark ground in front of the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art at Hamilton Field, Novato was the site for “Earth Epitaph”. Hundreds of vintage garbage can lids were arranged on the vast lawn of the art center that is housed in the refurbished officers quarters of the once military base. Like tombstone crosses in a military cemetery, the row upon row warns, if we continue to trash our planet at the present alarming rate, there will be no need for words on a final epitaph.

EarthEpitaph_sendFor “Beyond Landscape” an exhibition at the Marin Community Foundation a selection of 24 vintage garbage can lids were hung in the main conference room. In that formal context the wabi sabi beauty of the lids read as fine art, as mandalas, as protective shields. My installation titled “not far from here” told an unlikely story of my finding hundreds of abandoned garbage can lids embossed with dates from 1951 to the 1960’s. The lids call to us across time, posing the question – Where is away as in, throw away?

not far-pageMy “Tondos” are not “art objects” in the traditional sense. They are the result of a process of meditative, laborious (and, obsessive!) construction. Fragility and durability, ephemerality and duration are expressed in these circular explorations made with small torn pieces of 1/4″, 1/2″ and 3/4″ masking tape. Hours are spent in the repetitive action of taping from the center outward, piece by piece, round by round until the diameter is 6′ to 14′. Watercolor stains and shades of shellacs (platina, orange, garnet) are applied to emphasize the rounds. Reminiscent of circular calendars or charts of time these meditations serve as cartographic representations of the activity of making.Tondo_groupJFKU_5168

Tondo_TenWhile visiting Kyoto, I became so enthralled by the raked sand gardens of Ryonaji that when I returned home I wanted to make one of my own. Thanks to a generous grant from the New Work Fellowship, Marin Fund for Artists and the Marin Arts Council; the help of hundreds of volunteers and over 6,000 single-use plastic shopping bags “Recycle Ryonaji” (18′ x44′) was presented in the San Francisco Civic Center Plaza. In this community project, school groups and elders, helped cut the plastic bags into strips and sew (gather) the bags onto monofilament line to become the long strands of the sand. For ten days, all who typically hurry across the plaza were stopped by the captivating, mysterious beauty of a serene “garden” made from recycled materials.

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For years “creating something out of nothing” — from a found object, from a discard, from trash — has been my motto. Over the years the impact and amount of this so-called “nothing” has grown exponentially and so too has the size and quantity of my art pieces. My unusual use of ordinary materials exemplifies my art and my teaching philosophy: do something every day with what ever you have.

While the content of my work has a underlying message about inexorable passing of time, my intent is to transform the transitory into a moment of beauty.